In October of 2008, the Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers played what turned out to be a series-clinching game for the Phils at exactly the same time that the Eagles were playing the Washington Redskins. Televised against each other, the ratings were no surprise to people in Philadelphia. Even though the Phillies had a lot more at stake, the Eagles trounced them in the Philadelphia ratings, 22.7 to 13.2.
Two years later, a sea change.
Sunday night, the Phillies won the ratings war against the Eagles. It was the same situation -- a series-clinching game for the Phils, a regular-season game for the Eagles. It was the same television dynamic -- Phillies on cable, Eagles on a network. But according to Sports Business Daily, the Phils were the winners among Philadelphians watching television, 27.7 to 24.1.
The only difference between the two scenarios was the 2008 featured a pair of 1 pm games and 2010 featured two games that started after 8 pm. That wouldn't see to explain the flip in the numbers. Rather, my guess is that it has to do with expectations.
In 2008, the Phillies still hadn't won anything and the town hadn't won anything in a very long time. Back then, everybody was still waiting for the safe to fall on their heads. That was the old normal in Philadelphia, and in that mindset, an Eagles teams that was a perennial playoff contender took the lead, and by a large margin.
Now, fast-forward to today. In those 2 years, the expectations for both teams have been turned on their heads. Phillies fans have tasted success in ways that they haven't since 1980, and now they have a team with three starting pitchers/assasins named Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels. Phillies fans expect to win -- you know, the whole thing. It is a feeling that I can not remember being so pervasive in my professional lifetime, not in any sport or with any team.
As for the Eagles? Well, this was going to be a year when they caught their breath and tried to get Kevin Kolb ready to win championships. Expectations were dialed down all summer. Then, well, let's just say that the first month has been a little wacky. Short-term expectations might be higher now with Michael Vick, but he also happens to be hurt at the moment. You watch the Eagles, like much of the NFL, and it is hard to know what to think.
The Eagles do not appear to have lost any of their popularity, even with that. But the Phillies have grabbed a place that they likely have never held in this town, and it was reflected in those television numbers. Confident, swaggering, expecting to win; imagine.
PS: Nationally, it wasn't close. The Eagles' game routed the Phillies, 11.7 to 3.9.